Zaheer Khan backs Hardik Pandya to be India's X-factor in World Twenty20 next year
India's star Hardik Pandya is surely one of the top all-rounders in world cricket as of now. The youngster played his first 50-over World Cup, in England and Wales, a few months back and performed decently in all departments before the Men in Blue were eliminated in the semi-finals.
Post the semi-final exit, Hardik had stated that his focus has shifted towards the next ICC event; World Twenty20 (WT20) in Australia next year. He added that he wants to improve in few facets of the game and help India clinch the trophy they had bagged in the inaugural edition in 2007.
While the World Twenty20 remains far away at this point, former Indian speedster Zaheer Khan believes Hardik is highly essential to India's chances and will be the team's X-factor in the mega event.
"Hardik has spent enough time working towards it (power-hitting). First and foremost, he is someone who likes hitting a lot of balls in the nets and work towards achieving consistency in his power-hitting. Over and above that, you have got to have the basic power-hitting ability, which he has. The practice makes it perfect," Zaheer told.
"He does change the balance of the team, and that’s the balance which we were talking about. So, if a team has that kind of option, it really gives the side the luxury to play an extra bowler or an extra batsman. You can use his services as just a pure batsman and then add a specialist bowler, or you can just look at him as someone who will give you those four overs. And then play an extra batsman," added the 40-year-old.
Hardik was given a break during India's month-long tour of West Indies. However, the 25-year-old returned to the national side during the recently-concluded India versus South Africa T20Is. He accounted for two wickets and made an 18-ball 14 in the final match where the hosts lost by nine wickets. The series ended at 1-1 and the action will now shift towards the longer format when both sides will meet for a three-match Test series, starting from October 2.
The swashbuckling all-rounder isn't a part of the Test series as the team management is focused on maintaining the workload of key players with the ICC Test Championship underway and preparations for World Twenty20 in full swing.